Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley has defeated State Sen. John McKinney in the Republican primary and will face Gov. Dannel Malloy in the general election.
The win by Foley sets up a rematch from the 2010 gubernatorial election, in which Malloy, the former Stanford mayor, edged out the Republican 49.51 percent to 48.95 percent – a total of about 6,000 votes.
Foley defeated Sen. McKinney 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent when the race was called last Tuesday evening.
“Change is on the way,” Foley said during his victory speech. “Change is coming to Connecticut.”
Foley said he will continue to make the state’s high tax rate the focus of his campaign going forward as well as balancing the state’s record budget.
“We don’t have control over state spending, we’re anti-business, we’re driving jobs out of the state,” Foley said. “This hurts families and I think people have figured it out.”
Foley was endorsed by the state Republican Party in May. The Connecticut GOP chairman, Jerry Labriola, Jr., released a congratulatory statement to Foley on behalf of the party.
“We are very fortunate to have such a talented candidate leading the Republican ticket in 2014. With Tom’s record of restoring prosperity in the private sector, he has the experience we so desperately need to get Connecticut back on track,” Labriola said. “I also want to commend Senator McKinney on running a campaign of which all Republicans can be proud and calling on his supporters to unite behind our Republican team tonight.”
McKinney was gracious in defeat, saying the race was his best experience in politics, despite losing. He said that Foley “ran the better race and deserved to win.”
“At the end of the day Tom Foley had a huge advantage in name recognition,” McKinney said. “I think his strategy was a good one: ‘We need to beat Dan Malloy, I came close last time and I can do it this time.’”
During his concession speech, McKinney said he would support Foley in the general election and urged his supporters to help make Malloy a “one-term governor.”
“We need to elect a new governor,” McKinney said during the concession speech. “That governor needs to be Tom Foley.”
Immediately following the announcement of the primary results, Malloy released a statement saying that if Foley were elected in November he would shift into reverse the progress made by his administration since his election.
“He has spent his career making millions and destroying jobs,” the statement said.
The state Democratic Party also said in a statement that if Foley were elected he would “roll back the clock” for the middle class, women, healthcare and education.
The party said the low voter turnout in the primary – reported to be near 20 percent – was a sign that the GOP base lacked enthusiasm for either of the candidates.
“For the few Republicans who did show up, they selected Tom Foley, who has run a campaign avoiding the tough questions and totally devoid of specifics and details,” Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the third-party candidate Jonathan Pelto – running under the Education and Democracy banner – is just awaiting word on his petitions to get on the ballot from the secretary of State.
“With Foley’s victory the fight card is almost set,” Pelto said. “It looks like the voters of Connecticut will have an unprecedented array of candidates to choose from and that is good news for our democracy and our state.”
Pelto served in the state legislature as a Democrat for nine years. He resigned in 1993, opting to work in the private sector. Via his blog, Pelto has criticized the governor for his implementation of Common Core standards and his handling of the state’s finances.
Most recently, Pelto has accused Malloy of outright lying to the people of Connecticut over the state’s deficit. Pelto points to an interview in which Malloy said, “We don’t really have a deficit.” Pelto fired back with figures from the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, which outlines the state’s current budget deficit and points out that the gap is going to widen by $200 million in each of the next three years.
“As a result of Malloy’s unfair tax package that coddled the rich and disproportionately hit the middle class and his constant use of budget gimmicks, the candidate who wins this year’s gubernatorial election will have to deal with situation in which Connecticut will be at least $4.8 billion short of what would be needed to balance the state budget over the next three years,” Pelto wrote.
Another so-called outsider candidate, conservative Republican Joseph Visconti, has also submitted his petitions to appear on the November ballot, which, if approved, would turn the rematch into a four-way dance.
According to a July CBS/New York Times poll, Foley led Malloy by seven points, 48 percent to 41 percent. The poll is the first during this election that shows Foley with a lead over the incumbent governor. A Quinnipiac poll back in May showed the two candidates in a dead heat with 43 percent each.